Author:
Manufacturer: Gigabyte

SFF PCs get an upgrade

Ultra compact computers, otherwise known as small form factor PCs, are a rapidly increasing market as consumers realize that, for nearly all purposes other than gaming and video editing, Ultrabook-class hardware is "fast enough". I know that some of our readers will debate that fact, and we welcome the discussion, but as CPU architectures continue to improve in both performance and efficiency, you will be able to combine higher performance into smaller spaces. The Gigabyte BRIX platform is the exact result that you expect to see with that combination.

Previously, we have seen several other Gigabyte BRIX devices including our first desktop interaction with Iris Pro graphics, the BRIX Pro. Unfortunately though, that unit was plagued by noise issues - the small fan spun pretty fast to cool a 65 watt processor. For a small computer that would likely sit on top of your desk, that's a significant drawback. 

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Intel Ivy Bridge NUC, Gigabyte BRIX S Broadwell, Gigabyte BRIX Pro Haswell

This time around, Gigabyte is using the new Broadwell-U architecture in the Core i7-5500U and its significantly lower, 15 watt TDP. That does come with some specification concessions though, including a dual-core CPU instead of a quad-core CPU and a peak Turbo clock rate that is 900 MHz lower. Comparing the Broadwell BRIX S to the more relevant previous generation based on Haswell, we get essentially the same clock speed, a similar TDP, but also an improved core architecture.

Today we are going to look at the new Gigabyte BRIX S featuring the Core i7-5500U and an NFC chip for some interesting interactions. The "S" designates that this model could support a full size 2.5-in hard drive in addition to the mSATA port. 

Let's dive in and take a look!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM Releases Top Cortex Design to Partners

ARM has an interesting history of releasing products.  The company was once in the shadowy background of the CPU world, but with the explosion of mobile devices and its relevance in that market, ARM has had to adjust how it approaches the public with their technologies.  For years ARM has announced products and technology, only to see it ship one to two years down the line.  It seems that with the increased competition in the marketplace from Apple, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm ARM is now pushing to license out its new IP in a way that will enable their partners to achieve a faster time to market.

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The big news this time is the introduction of the Cortex A72.  This is a brand new design that will be based on the ARMv8-A instruction set.  This is a 64 bit capable processor that is also backwards compatible with 32 bit applications programmed for ARMv7 based processors.  ARM does not go into great detail about the product other than it is significantly faster than the previous Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A57.

The previous Cortex-A15 processors were announced several years back and made their first introduction in late 2013/early 2014.  These were still 32 bit processors and while they had good performance for the time, they did not stack up well against the latest A8 SOCs from Apple.  The A53 and A57 designs were also announced around two years ago.  These are the first 64 bit designs from ARM and were meant to compete with the latest custom designs from Apple and Qualcomm’s upcoming 64 bit part.  We are only now just seeing these parts make it into production, and even Qualcomm has licensed the A53 and A57 designs to insure a faster time to market for this latest batch of next-generation mobile devices.

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We can look back over the past five years and see that ARM is moving forward in announcing their parts and then having their partners ship them within a much shorter timespan than we were used to seeing.  ARM is hoping to accelerate the introduction of its new parts within the next year.

Click here to continue reading about ARM's latest releases!

MediaTek MT6753 64-bit Eight-Core SoC Announced

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | February 1, 2015 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: mt6753, mediatek

We do not talk about MediaTek's higher-end products too often. Part of that is because they use stock architectures, ARM's Cortex CPU, ARM's Mali GPU, and Imagination Technologies' PowerVR GPU, rather than designing their own CPU and/or GPU portion. Likewise, their design wins are also not covered too much on this site, such as the new Amazon Fire HD tablets, for their own reasons. They still make some interesting chips, though.

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Image Credit: A Weibo user via GSM-Arena

The MediaTek MT6753 is a true eight-core, 64-bit ARM SoC. Its press release makes the rest of its details... confusing. The release claims that it is clocked at 1.5 GHz and contains an ARM Mali-T720 GPU that is capable of OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.2. The ARM Mali-T720 is actually capable of OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL 1.1. This leads some sites to report that the MT6753 actually contains a Mali-T760, which is newer and can utilize OpenGL ES 3.1 and OpenCL 1.2 (it is also used in the MT6752 that was released several months ago). Other sites report what MediaTek claims.

GSM-Arena, one site that claims the (more-sensible) Mali-T760, also claims that the Cortex CPU cores can be clocked up to 1.7 GHz. This might not be inaccurate either, because it could be intended to run at ~1.3 to 1.5 GHz with a 1.7 GHz peak for vendors that want to take it to eleven. Alternatively, they could be wrong and it could peak at 1.5 GHz. We don't know, and MediaTek should be more clear about these important details.

Everyone seems to agree on the chip's networking capability, though. It will directly support LTE protocols for both China and western markets. This is expected to make them more competitive against Qualcomm, which might lead to more interesting designs.

Devices containing the MT6753 are expected to ship next quarter.

Source: MediaTek

Report: AMD Godavari CPU Lineup Leaked - New APUs and Athlon X4 Processors

Subject: Processors | January 29, 2015 - 10:41 AM |
Tagged: rumor, processors, Kaveri, Godavari, cpu, Athlon X4, APU, amd

VR-Zone has published a report with a detailed slide showing upcoming AMD Godavari processors, and the updated lineup includes 12 new models.

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Image credit: VR-Zone

The release schedule indicates a spring availability for most of the new APUs, with the Athlon X4 850 and 870K shipping in May. The APU line gets a new flagship desktop part with the A10-8850K, and this appears to be a higher-clocked version of the A10-7850K, with a 100MHz higher boost clock (4.1 GHz vs. 4.0 GHz) and a higher GPU clock of 856 MHz (vs. 720 MHz).

Of particular interest for the potential budget quad-core buyer is the Athlon X4 870K, a new 95W part which would presumably replace the X4 860K - a processor that has seen inconsistent availability (and is currently unavailable on Newegg). With more games being released that require a quad-core to run, these sub-$100 Athlon CPUs present a great value in constructing a low-cost gaming system these days.

The slide does not indicate a change in the 28nm process from Kaveri, and it should be safe to assume these will not represent a significant architectural change. The modest clock increases from Kaveri will result in some performance gains, and this is good for consumers assuming these will sell at the same price points as the outgoing models.

Source: VR Zone

Report: AMD Carrizo APU Benchmarks Show 2x the Performance of Kaveri, 3x Intel Iris Pro

Subject: Processors | January 18, 2015 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: SoC, rumor, processor, leak, iris pro, Intel, graphics, cpu, carrizo, APU, amd

A new report of leaked benchmarks paints a very interesting picture of the upcoming AMD Carrizo mobile APU.

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Image credit: SiSoftware

Announced as strictly mobile parts, Carrizo is based on the next generation Excavator core and features what AMD is calling one of their biggest ever jumps in efficiency. Now alleged leaked benchmarks are showing significant performance gains as well, with numbers that should elevate the IGP dominance of AMD's APUs.

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Image credit: WCCFtech

WCCFtech explains the performance shown in this SiSoft Sandra leak in their post:

"The A10 7850K scores around 270 Mpix/s while Intel’s HD5200 Iris Pro scores a more modest 200 Mpix/s. Carriso scores here over 600 Mpix/s which suggests that Carrizo is more than twice as fast as Kaveri and three times faster than Iris Pro. To put this into perspective this is what an R7 265 graphics card scores, a card that offers the same graphics performance inside the Playstation 4."

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While the idea of desktop APUs with greatly improved graphics and higher efficency is tantalizing, AMD has made it clear that these will be mobile-only parts at launch. When asked by Anandtech, AMD had this to say about the possibility of a desktop variant:

“With regards to your specific question, we expect Carrizo will be seen in BGA form factor desktops designs from our OEM partners. The Carrizo project was focused on thermally constrained form factors, which is where you'll see the big differences in performance and other experiences that consumers value.”

The new mobile APU will be manufactured with the same 28nm process as Kaveri, with power consumption up to 35W for the Carrizo down to a maximum of 15W for the ultra-mobile Carrizo-L parts.

Source: WCCFtech

Ah, the days when a 1GHz overclock was considered poor

Subject: Processors | January 15, 2015 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: Pentium G3258, overclock, Intel

You just don't see CPU overclocking guides much anymore, the process has become much easier over the years as Intel and AMD both now sell unlocked CPUs that they expect you to overclock and the motherboard tools and UEFI interfaces do a lot of the heavy lifting for you now.  No longer are you doing calculations for frequency ratios or drawing on your CPU with conductive ink.  Overclockers Club is revisiting those heydays with a guide on how to make your $70 3.2GHz Pentium G3258 into a more serious beast with a speed well over 4GHz.  The steps for overclocking are not difficult but for those who do not have a background in overclocking CPUs, the verification testing steps they describe will be of great value.  If you are already well versed in the ways of MemTest86 and Prime95 then perhaps it will be a nice reminder of the days of the Celeron and the huge increases in frequency that family rewarded the patient overclocker with.

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"To reach 4.7GHz was a cinch once I adjusted all the smaller voltage settings. Like all overclockers, it was a journey with many failures along the way. One day it would boot and run Prime95, and the next time Windows would not load. It took a while to sort it out by backing down to 4.5GHz and raising each setting until I settled on the below settings."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

CES 2015: MediaTek MT2601 Low-Power SoC for Wearables

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2015 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: smartwatch, mt2601, mediatek, ces 2015, CES

When you start getting into the wearables market, even mobile SoCs can be somewhat big and power-hungry. As such, we are seeing more innovation in processors that satisfy these lower classes (which could just be us paying more attention). The MediaTek MT2601 is one such device, which combines a pair of ARM Cortex-A7 cores (1.2 GHz) with an ARM Mali 400MP GPU (intended frequency unknown) on a package PCB that is less than 480mm2. (Edit @ 9:48PM -- they seem to mean the SoC and other chips, like the Bluetooth module)

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MediaTek's release does not list fab nodes, but PDAdb.net claims that it is designed for 28nm.

Of course, these chips are designed to be low cost, low power, and whatever performance can be squeezed out of those two requirements, so it might not be the most interesting SoC that we can talk about. Still, battery life has been a major hindrance to smart watches and other small, niche devices. It will be interesting to see new-generation devices that use these components.

Heck, if I had more time, I might even want to hack around with these directly.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Intel Releases 14 nm Cherry Trail SOC

Subject: Processors | January 5, 2015 - 07:30 PM |
Tagged: SoC, low power, Intel, Cherry Trail, cell phones, ces 2015, CES, Bay Trail, 14 nm trigate, tablets

It wouldn’t be CES if there wasn’t an Intel release.  Today they are releasing their latest 14 nm Cherry Trail SOC.  Very little information has been released about this part, but it is the follow-up to the fairly successful Bay Trail.  That particular part was a second generation 22 nm part that exhibited very good power and performance characteristics for the price.  While Bay Trail was not as popular as Intel had hoped for, it did have some impressive design wins in multiple market sectors.

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The next generation process technology from Intel will improve power and performance for the Cherry Trail parts as compared to previous products.  It will work in both Windows and Android environments.  While Cherry Trail is x86, Intel has been working very closely with Google to get Android to work effectively and quickly with a non-ARM based ISA.

Intel is shipping these parts to their partners for integration into phones, tablets, and small form factor computers.  We had previously seen Bay Trail parts integrated into low cost motherboards with the J1800 and J1900 SKUs from Intel.  We can expect these products to be refreshed with the latest Cherry Trail products that are being released today.

There is very little information being provided by Intel about the nuts and bolts of the Cherry Trail products.  Intel promises to release more information once their partners start announcing individual products.  We know that these parts will have improved graphics performance and will exist in the same TDPs as previous Bay Trail products. Other than that, feeds and speeds are a big question for this latest generation part.

These products will be integrating Intel’s RealSense technology.  Password-less security, gestures, and 3D camera recognition are all aspects of this technology.  I am sure we will get more information on how this technology leverages the power of the CPU cores and GPU cores in the latest Cherry Trail SOCs.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Intel

CES 2015: Intel Launches Broadwell-U (15W and 28W)

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: iris graphics 6100, iris, Intel, hd graphics 6000, hd graphics 5500, ces 2015, CES, broadwell-u, Broadwell

When Intel launched Broadwell-Y in November, branded Core M by that point, they had a 4.5W processor that was just a little slower than a 15W Haswell Ultrabook CPU. This is quite a bit of power efficiency, although these numbers are maximum draw and might not be exactly proportional to average power under load.

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At CES, Intel has launched Broadwell-U, which takes this efficiency and scales it up to 15W and 28W SKUs. The idea is that the extra thermal headroom will scale up for extra CPU and GPU performance. These are all BGA-attached components, which means that these processors need to be physically soldered to the motherboards -- they are destined for OEMs.

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As an example of Broadwell-U's increased performance, the Core M 5Y70 has a base frequency of 1.1 GHz that can boost to 2.6 GHz; the top-end Broadwell-U has a base clock of 3.1 GHz and boosts to 3.4 GHz. From Core i3 up to Core i7, regardless of TDP, each of these processors are dual-core with HyperThreading (4 threads total). There is also a single Pentium and two Celeron SKUs, which are dual-core without HyperThreading (2 threads total).

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Its GPU receives a large boost as well, particularly with the 28W SKUs receiving Iris Graphics 6100, although Iris Pro Graphics (6200 and 6300) do not yet make an appearance. If we had access to the number of execution units and we assumed the same instruction-per-clock count as Iris Graphics 5100, we would be able to calculate a theoretical FLOP figure, but that is information that we do not have. It would make sense if it were 48 execution units, twice Core M and consistent with the official die shot that Intel doesn't actually identify by product number. This would give it about 845 GFLOPs of performance, or about an OEM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 (the retail GTX 460 cards were about 4% faster than the OEM ones).

It is also within 2% of Haswell's Iris 5100 theoretical GFLOPs, albeit with a 15% drop in clock rate.

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From a features standpoint, the GPU is a definite step-up. It has “Enhanced” hardware support for VP8, VP9, and h.265 (HEVC) video and 4K UltraHD output, wired or by Intel WiDi. Broadwell's iGPU was designed with DirectX 12 in mind and supports OpenCL 2.0 -- leaving NVIDIA behind in that regard, since AMD added that API in last month's Omega driver.

Intel is slightly behind in OpenGL support however, claiming 4.3 compatibility while AMD is at 4.4 and NVIDIA is at 4.5. This could mean that these GPUs do not (unless a future driver changes this) support “Efficient Multiple Object Binding”, “Sparse Texture Extension”, or “Direct State Access”. Then again, they could support these features as extensions or something, because it is OpenGL and extensions are its thing, but you know -- they're obviously missing some part of the spec, somewhere.

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This leaves Broadwell-H and Broadwell-K, high performance BGA and socketed LGA respectively, to launch later in the year. These products will have significantly higher TDPs and stronger performance, at the expense of battery life (a non-issue for the desktop-bound -K parts) and heat.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

NVIDIA's Tegra X1

NVIDIA seems to like begin on a one year cycle with their latest Tegra products.  Many years ago we were introduced to the Tegra 2, and the year after that the Tegra 3, and the year after that the Tegra 4.  Well, NVIDIA did spice up their naming scheme to get away from the numbers (not to mention the potential stigma of how many of those products actually made an impact in the industry).  Last year's entry was the Tegra K1 based on the Kepler graphics technology.  These products were interesting due to the use of the very latest, cutting edge graphics technology in a mobile/low power format.  The Tegra K1 64 bit variant used two “Denver” cores that were actually designed by NVIDIA.

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While technically interesting, the Tegra K1 series have made about the same impact as the previous versions.  The Nexus 9 was the biggest win for NVIDIA with these parts, and we have heard of a smattering of automotive companies using Tegra K1 in those applications.  NVIDIA uses the Tegra K1 in their latest Shield tablet, but they do not typically release data regarding the number of products sold.  The Tegra K1 looks to be the most successful product since the original Tegra 2, but the question of how well they actually sold looms over the entire brand.

So why the history lesson?  Well, we have to see where NVIDIA has been to get a good idea of where they are heading next.  Today, NVIDIA is introducing the latest Tegra product, and it is going in a slightly different direction than what many had expected.

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The reference board with 4 GB of LPDDR4.

Click here to read the rest of the NVIDIA Tegra X1 release!